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Border disputes discussed at CARICOM meeting

The issue of national security in Belize has come at the forefront of several of our newscasts as it relates to the role of the country’s security forces and the incursions done by the Guatemalans.  The Belize/Guatemala issue came up during the CARICOM meetings conducted over the last two days under the area of border security.  Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington was at the Belize Ocean Club earlier today where he granted us an interview and spoke of a presentation he made to the heads of Government.

Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs

“There were two border issues that were dealt with, the Belize border issue and the other one, the Guyana border issue. I was just listening to one of the Prime Ministers who was saying that the Guyana border issue was on the table since 1993 so these are two issues that have been coming back every time the heads meet because it gives the heads an opportunity to affirm their solidarity with the countries and to get an update as to what has transpired since the last meeting. That is essentially what took place. I was able to give them an update on all that has transpired since we last met and tell them what we are planning to do in the future.”

As it relates to the support and engagement of the member states of the Caribbean Community and the issue of the territorial dispute that Belize has with Guatemala, Elrington spoke on how CARICOM can help.

Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs

“The most important one is the diplomatic pressure that can be brought to bear on the countries, also too the encouraging of the international community to support the process, both in terms of providing finances and perhaps afford us technical support. We may need technical support for research and a like and they would help us to get that either through the United Nations Agencies or even through a contact with CARICOM and the Commonwealth. We are closely connected. Border disputes are of interest to every nation on earth because conflict in any part of the world affects everybody all over the world, conflicts don’t stay one place. You have a conflict in the Middle East but it affects us here in terms of security so we put additional security on people who are coming from the Middle East because we don’t want them to create any problem, you don’t know who’s coming and you don’t know who is a terrorist. I’m saying that to make the point that a dispute or conflict in any one part of the world affects everybody so everybody is concerned about it.”

In his presentation to the Heads of Government, Elrington told the media that he had expressed the Government’s interest in going to the International Court of Justice on the matter.

 Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs

“Historically and up to this point in time, we normally propose how we are dealing with it at the time of the meeting. For example we in the case of Belize, we were able to inform the heads that we have agreed to go to the ICJ, Guatemalans have to ratify their amended agreement that we intend to take all steps to try to expedite going there. They approved that and in other words we tell them what we are doing and they give their approval and solidarity for it. It’s not that they tell us what we are to do but we notify them of it, they normally agree with what we are proposing and give solidarity for it.”

During today’s press conference, led by Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Secretary General Irwin LaRocque, the men spoke on what was discussed on the issue of border security.  Interestingly, Guyana is also facing a border dispute with Venezuela.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow – CARICOM Chairman

“On border issues we took the opportunity to reiterate unequivocal support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Belize and Guyana with regard to their respective border controversies.”

Ambassador Irwin LaRoque – CARICOM Secretary General

“Just to add by way of the security issue we’ve had our council of ministers call the Council of National Security Ministers; so important that the heads think that this is for the advancing of our community they have decided to amend the treaty to reflect that council in the treaty. It now becomes one of the formal decision making bodies of our community, it was not absolutely necessary to do so because the conference has the authority to establish what we call organs or decision making bodies but given the significance of the issue to us that step was taken and it has been signed.”

Pending for Belize on this matter is a national referendum to decide on whether the matter will be taken to the International Court of Justice.